Introduction



Amos ‘n’ Andy was the most popular radio program of the 1930’s, a cultural institution, and a constant source of controversy. Created by Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, it aired from 1928-1955, with an augmented form of the show, Amos ‘n’ Andy Music Hall, airing from 1955-1960.

The television version, The Amos ‘n’ Andy Show, aired from 1951-’53.

The cultural touchstone sprang from the blackface minstrel  show tradition, with White voice actors animating Black characters. Gosden was Amos, a well-meaning, naive sort who was often taken in by various hustlers. His friend, Andy (voiced by Correll), was brash and more confident, though no less likely to be scammed. Amos eventually married and became a family man and upstanding citizen, while Andy remained a bachelor, repeatedly locking horns with a huckster named Kingfish. The two were residents of Chicago, having migrated there from Georgia.

The program was important in being an early example of a serial, with continuous storylines that took several weeks to play out. It was deeply controversial due to the perception that the bumbling, often-confused Amos and Andy constituted negative portrayals of Blacks.

Of the two, the radio program was more popular, rising to the stature of national phenomenon, at one point owning 60% of the overall audience. The TV show did all right in ratings, but was beset much more than the radio show with protests, chiefly from the NAACP.

The show can be thought of as an anachronism, a time capsule of racial attitudes in this country, a quaint chestnut from a bygone era, and a forerunner of much popular entertainment in the late 20th century.

Comments

  1. I am gratified to see that someone had dedicated internet space to Amos n' Andy. I am old enough to remember actually living the folklore about walking down a street on an early Sunday evening in summer (pre-air conditioning so windows were open) and hearing an entire episode because every house had their radio tuned to Amos n' Andy. Some years ago at a meeting of The Friends of Old Time Radio in Newark there was a panel discussion re: Amos n' Andy. I defended the show; my opponents wanted to purge all recordings of - even all references to - Amos n' Andy and to pretend that the most popular radio show of all time never existed. I made several arguments (I thought each to be cogent), but lost the debate because political correctness prevailed over all. I thought my most telling argument lay in the observation that after 1943, or so, the Amos n' Andy show was the only piece of American theater in which Black and white actors played characters of equal social status - it was another 25 years before Black actors were further freed from playing characters of subordinate social status (maids, Pullman Red Caps, etc.). I wouldn't, personally, call the show "anachronistic" any more than I would call the recordings of FDR's "Fireside Chats" anachronistic. I realize that Amos n' Andy can no longer be played, or heard, except (for the time being, at least) in areas of personal privacy and with the windows closed and shades drawn, but I would challenge the most vigorous opponent of Amos n' Andy to listen to the traditional Christmas show without acknowledging the virtues of the moral and philosophical messages contained therein. I won't sign my name because, these days, one could actually lose one's job just for speaking favorably of the show. Thanks very much, though, for making a mark which will slow down the eventual, unfortunate, descent into oblivion of the Amos n' Andy show.

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    1. I agree completely! I wasn't born until after the show left the airwaves, but I love it and I am so grateful that I have had access to these wonderful comedies! I am only signing as Anonymous because I don't know my irl (if I even have one!) I will defend this show to my last breath!~Norma

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    2. As a very young white girl being segregated from blacks at the time, it was the only show that even gave a window in to black lives, though it did pro-tray the blacks in a cartoon like manner, I saw them as humans with life and problems like me and mine. I believe it helped me growing up in a very negative bigoted southern state to know blacks were people too and were not to be treated as lesser individuals.

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    3. Hello! I am a student trying to research Amos 'n Andy and I found your comment so insightful. I am writing in hopes that I could maybe use your knowledge to support the very idea that you spoke about. I would love to contact you if possible because reliable information is hard to find about Amos 'n Andy due to the controversy.
      Thanks
      Nina

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  2. Amos n Andy are just plain funny, I didn't even give thought that they were supposed to be Black people
    It would work just as well being two White guys who are basically boobs.
    I don't understand the NAACP making a stink since the show employed Black actors and is no worse as far a racism than Sanford and Son or Good Times

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    1. I also remember watching the TV show Amos n Andy when I was a kid. I loved the show and hated that they cancelled it.

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    2. I have had the same thoughts.This could be White guys and still be hysterical. I think it was wonderful that it not only employed Black actors, but it opened the way for future opportunities for them. And not all the characters were stereotyped: they had a lawyer, an articulate stage actor, a barber and others. Good, descent, hard working folks!! I love it and always will!~Norma

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  3. Amos and Andy show was great for America and black people. It illustrated a culture that all people could aspire to, whether from the ozards, hills of Kentucky, or mountains of Wyoming. They illustrated good people helping each other and working with other people white or black. America lost a lot when it gave in to racist like the NAACP. They were bad for America and killed the black culture that was on its way to establishing a life of their own. It's like these groups want to milk down the black culture and make it blend and go away. But it won't, because the blacks want a culture of their own just like any group, mexican, asian, etc.
    What blacks should do is demand that the NAACP and the democratic party stop representing them and treating them like they are worthless and helpless! Vote Republican!

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